Lying through a constructivist lens

Tue, 27 Feb 1996 10:05:41 -0600 (CST)

I found the comment by Bob Niemeyer about lying, bad faith, and
fixed role enactments utterly fascinating and stimulating. I
wish to add some ideas...

I would think that the lie and fixed role may both be in the
direction of bad faith. Paradoxical interventions would also
apply. The gold standard I would look for in regard to bad faith
would have to do with the *interpersonal* and not entirely
*personal* intentions of the liar / role player. If the
intention is to do something that will help the other see a
unique perspective, then yes, I would argue that even that is bad
faith. The reason? The liar / role player typically takes the
(manipulative?) assumption that he/she has superior knowledge of
the other's construing process, and thereby disregards they
*mystery* (in the Leitner & Pfenninger sense) of the other. Such
"strategizing" in relationships requires, though in a seemingly
benign way, a perception of the other as an object. Though the
intentions are well-natured and often the outcome may seem
beneficial, I think that role playing is at least a temporary
leap into bad faith. In other words, the liar/role player must
assume that his/her actions will cause the other to respond in
some predictable manner, a violation (however slight) of the
other's freedom.

Might this imply that Kelly's motif of "person as scientist" is
itself a venture into bad faith? The *personal* scientist is
constantly testing others in this very manner. However, if
construing is *interpersonal* then it is possible to be with the
other (at least occasionally) without bad faith and hypothesis
testing. This may be an important distinction between Kelly and

Can we do fixed role enactments, paradoxical interventions, and
lie in a beneficial manner? Perhaps. [As Leitner frequently
says, "it all depends."] In my opinion it depends on the
*respect* or regard that we hold for the other. But most
importantly, it has to do with the our intentions to *be* with
the other.

Timothy Anderson, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37240